M-Audio Keystation 88ES Hands on Review

M-Audio Keystation 88ES MIDI Controller | Jason S.

For a piano player, nothing beats the feel of a real piano.  M-Audio’s Keystation 88ES MIDI Controller is surely designed to answer that desire.  A rather minimalistic keyboard, sleek and narrow – 53 inches long and only 9 1/2 inches deep – the 88ES weighs in at 22 pounds.  With 88 semi-weighted keys, the Keystation 88ES has no knobs, no screens, no buttons.  There are only six necessary controllers on the left side of the board (a slider, 2 pitch bend and modulation wheels and 3 buttons) so that users do what they’re trained to do – play the instrument.

The Keystation 88ES is plug and play and USB-powered (or 9V DC), so it can be connected right to your PC and used immediately without the hassle and buzz kill of downloading a series of drivers and updates. The board has a built-in USB MIDI interface with a MIDI out jack.  The construction is sturdy as well and comes with Ableton Live Lite which can be installed and used as a pretty solid start for anyone who may otherwise be lacking music software but wants to try their hand at music production. For real time playing, your computer system will need a soundcard that supports ASIO, or external I/O.  Please be advised that ASIO functions with Windows operating system.

M-Audio Keystation 88es Connections and Controls

M-Audio Keystation 88es Connections and Controls

Keep in mind that this unit is fairly large, particularly when compared with some of the more popular super-compact units like the Axiom 25. But it’s narrow and light enough to literally be carried under your arm. Despite its length, there’s still something comforting and even inspiring about sitting down at a full-sized board and playing through a tune or two.  The Keystation 88ES is a well-made piece of equipment and typically retails for under $250.  You will need a dedicated stand sturdy enough to accommodate this controller for sure and you may prefer a longer USB cable as well since the one that comes with the board is short relative to the size of the board.  But all of that depends on your studio or live setup.

M-Audio’s Keystation 88ES is a general purpose keyboard controller, great for use with either a Mac or PC-based home recording system or project studio.  Considering the quality, stylistic simplicity and ease of use for the 88ES, I think it’s an investment worth the money and it’s a reliable board that performs well both in live and studio applications.

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